Choosing a dairy animal

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Those who have been reading my blog for any length of time probably know that I’m itching to get to milking again. And I have faith that G-d will eventually lead us down the path to further food self-sufficiency and sustainability, which will include keeping dairy animals.

Do you dream of having your own delicious milk, cheese and yogurt as well? Do you keep, or plan to keep, goats or cows? Are you struggling to choose between the two? Read my latest Mother Earth News post for more insight.

“This is a question many homesteaders seriously grapple with when they consider getting a dairy animal. Goats or cows? Cows or goats? There is no one clear-cut answer for all, but rather, many points to be considered while you make the decision about what kind of dairy animal is the right one for you.”

PS: Today, my thoughts are with my American friends as I remember September 11-th. The world is with you. Let’s not let evil get the upper hand.

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Late Summer

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August is approaching its middle, and while the days wan steadily shorter, I am looking forward to longer, cooler nights, autumn rains, and the fresh greenery in the landscape that will come with them.

Late summer is always a busy time for me, as I wrap up my spring and early summer garden (and prepare for a second growing season, that will last well into November). Last week, I pulled up my exhausted tomatoes, after having picked the last of the produce, planted some basil, and started more tomato plants indoors. The first spring chicks are almost pullets now, and two of my hens are sitting once more, probably for the last time this season.

The time of the year is turning me into quite a scatterbrain, and concise writing efforts are getting put off for cooler, serener times, but here are two of my latest Mother Earth News posts for your perusal:

Drying Produce – Herbs are one of the easiest things to dry. Simply cut a good-sized bunch, wash it thoroughly, tie by the stems and hang to dry – outside if the weather is sunny, inside if you have frequent rains or live in a very humid climate. In a few days, depending on the weather and humidity level, you should have a bunch of perfectly dry herbs ready to be stored in a tightly sealed glass jar or plastic bag. You can keep them as leaves for tea or crush them into powder for seasoning.

Dealing With House and Garden Pests – Having lived in town for most of my life, I experienced a kind of shock when we married and moved into a little house on a plot of land. The critters that have invaded our premises over the years could form a small menagerie: we’ve had lizards, snakes, black scorpions, giant yellow centipedes, mice, rats, spiders and, of course, a whole host of insects – beetles, ants, woodlice… you name it.

One afternoon in the garden

It’s summer… warm, lovely summer with long days, homemade popsicles, water balloons, and everything growing like mad.

As you can see above, our sage plants, after a long latent stage as poor little sticks, have grown to be mighty bushes. And our tomatoes, though still green, are already very promising. I also put in some new pepper plants.

Here is also one very annoyed mama hen. Doesn’t her whole attitude speak very plainly: “Do not get close to my chicks, or else?” After a heartbreaking result with our previous batch of chicks – some sort of predator dug its way into the coop and just made off with all our chicks, plus two of my favorite chickens, leaving absolutely no trace – I spent hours reinforcing the base of our coop with local rock. I know pouring concrete around the base would have been more effective, but we just can’t afford this right now.

Anyway, we now have fifteen new chicks, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I hope we can raise them into nice stock of pullets who will lay plenty of eggs for us in a few months.

Weeding Made Easy

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Do you have a least favorite garden chore? Mine is probably weeding, but with raised beds, things have been a lot easier for some time now. Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“The best time to pull weeds is after a good rain, when the ground is nice and soft. Once our ground dries, it gets the consistency of hard clay and weeding becomes increasingly difficult. This doesn’t go for the raised beds, of course, which are always kept nice and fluffy. I have taught my kids to always give the beds a quick look-over and pull up every tiny weed they can find – sometimes we even make a contest as to who pulls up most.”

Keeping chickens significantly reduces weed level as well (one of the many benefits of having our feathered friends around!). Also, things do get better with each year that passes one the same plot, if you are diligent and pull up young weeds without letting them go to seed. When I look at our yard today, I actually think to myself, “wow, this looks almost well-kept considering to what it was two years ago!”

Growing Fenugreek from seed

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A few months ago I thought I’d try to sow some dry Fenugreek seeds from the store as an experiment, and they thrived in a sunny spot in the garden during the winter and spring. Yesterday, as the plants were already exhausted, I pulled them up and sowed some beans instead.

Fenugreek seeds grow in pods, much like peas and beans, (though the pods are smaller, of course) and can be eaten both fresh and dry. The plant has many beneficial properties, among them lowering blood sugar and stimulating milk production in nursing mothers. The dry seeds can be soaked and made into hilbe spread, after the Yemenite tradition, and also added to soups and stews.

For more information on using Fenugreek, read here.

Coping with chicken loss

 

There are few things more painful to me as a chicken owner than the untimely loss of one of the flock. Our chickens are all lovingly hand-raised, and it’s enough to drive one mad when a sneaky predator gets past one’s defenses, or when a disease you can do little about makes its rounds in the coop.

Still, I guess that this knowledge, this acceptance of the fact that there will be some losses, is what enables us to bounce back and keep raising chickens.

From my latest Mother Earth News post:

“Losing animals is an inevitable part of raising them. No matter how careful and diligent you are, at some point you will have to deal with saying goodbye – and not just due to old age, either – to some members of your flock or herd. This is heartbreaking even if your animals were meant to end up as dinner at some point. So much more if you treat your livestock somewhat like pets. I remember one time years ago, crying and telling my husband I’d rather give it all up and never keep anything living but plants again.”

Spring, an exciting thing

I spent some time in the garden this morning (while I really should have been getting the house in order for Pesach, but never mind) and as you can see, the sage is in full bloom and the first beans are hopefully poking their heads up.

My tomato seedlings look a bit puny,but I hope they will improve as we get more sunlight hours.

Moreover, we already have our first two broodies of the season! So hoping for some chicks soon.

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Our neighbor’s dog has had a litter of puppies. My kids are delighted. Here you can see the mother dog looking on intently (but not at all in a hostile manner) as Israel is gently touching one of her babies.